Finding a respite from thc rat race


Home affordability another key reason for town's popularity

November 14, 1999

If you want to know if Mount Airy is growing, just go to church.

On one Sunday in September, The Rev. Arthur Lillicropp said he welcomed 22 new people to his parish, St. James Episcopal Church on Main Street.

Lillicropp also tells about the four baptisms he presided over on that September day and the five that he did the following Sunday.

St. James is a good indicators of what's happening in Mount Airy. Of those 22 new church members who have moved to this little town at the junction of Carroll, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery counties, some were from out of state, but most came from the Baltimore-Washington corridor, according to Lillicropp.

Many of the residents who have settled here in the past few years are from Montgomery County, said Linda Kenney, an agent in the Mount Airy office of Long and Foster Real Estate Inc. "They want to get away from the area's congestion and overcrowding."

One of Kenney's clients, Kim Cullop, who moved from an apartment in German-town, agrees.

"We wanted to get away from the rat race," Cullop said. "There were people on top of people on top of people down there." Kim and her husband, Mike, bought a three-bedroom house on an acre in Mount Airy because they like the small-town feel and slower pace.

"Montgomery County is a metropolis now," she said, "You'd see a batch a trees, then the next day they'd be ripped up and something [would] be built in their place."

But another important reason for Mount Airy's pop-ularityis affordability.

"There's more bang for your buck here than close in to Washington," said Steve Meszaros, sales manager of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA's Mount Airy office. Meszaros said his office ham died 14 settlements in one day at the end of September.

The price difference be tween Mount Airy and Montgomery County can be substantial. A two-bedroom house in Potomac, an upscale suburb outside the Capitol Beltway, can cost as much as $265,000 on less than an acre of land. A luxury four-bedroom hpme on 2 acres in Failing Green in Mount Airy was listed at $268,990.

According to Meszaros, there's a wide range of housing prices --from $90,000 for a townhouse to $400,000 for an estate variety of home. But it's the size of the lot that's often the critical difference between Mount Airy and suburban Washington. "People come here for that back yard for their kids," Kenney said.

As with prices, home styles run the gamut -- from turn-of-the-century historic homes that border Main Street to luxury golf course community homes, such as those at Warfields Challedon off Route 27 just north of Mount Airy's town center. The 650-acre development has 145 lots ranging from 2 to 3 acres surrounding an 18-hole golf course, according to project manager Michael Laureno.

Most of Laureno's buyers also migrate from Montgomery County and echo Kim Cullop's reason for moving. "Their main complaint is the traffic and hustle and bustle down there," Laureno said.

Lots averaging 2.25 acres start around $115,000, and 45 have been sold in the past few years. Laureno said buyers either obtain a builder and plan, or use the development's design-build service. Because so many are eager to move in, Warfields Challedon is constructing "spec" homes to build up an inventory.

Though many towns in Carroll and Frederick counties have Colonial origins, Mount Airy is a relatively young town.

Mount Airy began as a railroad center in the 1880s when Irish immigrants laid the tracks for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It continued as a rail stop until 1969, when freight service was discontinued. The former train station, once the hub of Main Street, now houses a pharmacy.

The traditional Main Street that many newcomers and visitors find charming is actually the fourth version of downtown. In 1904, 1914 and 1925, the downtown of Mount Airy burned.

Although most of the older residents are pleased with the town's growth, they don't want it to lose the small-town feel, They know that many towns outside Washington that were quaint, slow-paced communities now are engulfed by sprawl.

The stores on Mount Airy's Main Street have done well because of the influx of homeowners, including The Whistlestop Bookstore, according to its owner Anne Dorsey.

"When you ask people what brings you to Mount Airy, they say they heard it was a nice place," Dorsey said. Its proximity to Interstate 70 is a plus for commuting and for Mount Airy's downtown businesses. "Many of the customers," she said, "stop on their way to somewhere else."

Mount Airy

ZIP code: 21771

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 45 minutes

Public schools: Mount Airy Elementary, Mount Airy Middle School, South Carroll High

Shopping:, Twin Arch Shopping Center, Frederick and Westminster downtown stores

Homes on the market: 3

Average listing price: $237,264

Average sales price: $226,614

Average days on market: 150

Sales price as a percentage of listing:. 95.5 percent

Based on, 14 sales in the last 12 months as recorded by lhe Metropolitan Regional Information System.

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